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Sun sign columns
Response to an armchair invitation

Geoffrey Dean and Arthur Mather

An expanded version of the authors' "Sun Sign Columns: Response to an Invitation", Skeptical Inquirer 24(5), 36-40, September/October 2000. The invitation is described in their earlier article History on this website under Sun Signs.

Abstract -- The authors contacted several thousand astrologers and two dozen interested scientists and invited their ideas for testing sun sign forecasts and delineations. The invitation was to devise tests, not to perform tests, so nobody had to leave their armchair. A total of 16 astrologers and 14 scientists responded from a total of nine countries. The article contains a brief summary of each response, and a longer summary of each response in an appendix. The most telling comment was from Professor William Grey, a philosopher who has interacted with astrologers and has also organised a national survey of belief in astrology. He commented: "Astrologers have had plenty of opportunity to establish the validity of sun sign astrology via double-blind tests. That they have not done so is most easily explained by the hypothesis that they cannot do so. Sun sign astrology is not knowledge but epistemological hallucination [ie delusion]." As for the tests, there was essentially no difference between those proposed by astrologers and those proposed by scientists, or between those proposed and those already made. This outcome suggests that the existing negative verdict on sun signs is unlikely to change. Readers can safely take the statements made in sun sign books and columns to be pure fiction. The authors sent their findings to the leading astrological bodies in seven countries (AA Britain, CEDRA France, CIDA Italy, DAV Germany, FAA Australia, ISAR and NCGR United States, NVWOA Netherlands) and called on them to declare their position either for or against the existing verdict. Two declined, the rest did not reply. Such indifference hardly enhances astrology's reputation. If the leading astrological bodies in seven countries can show no concern for negative evidence that seems the most clear and consistent in astrology, astrologers can hardly complain if critics dismiss astrology (not just sun signs) out of hand.

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